3 things you will never find on a lessons learned report

In Prince2 it is best practice to conduct a Lessons Learned Exercise for the Lessons Learned Log to go into the Lessons Learned Report.

I find it is much more useful to conduct a Lessons Not Learned Exercise. It’s far more important and there’s much less writing up afterwards.

Here are some things that I have noticed my organisation believes but doesn’t really know it does so you’d never find them in a Lessons Learned Report. Straight into my imaginary Lessons Not Learned Report they go.

1: Paper is magic, so keep making more of it

We have learnt that a document is the same thing as the inside of a person’s mind, so it is important that words are authoritive and cleared at the highest level to ensure people will do what is written on the paper. We therefore will concentrate on producing documents as concentrating on people one at a time takes too much time. We don’t write one document per person. That would be silly.

2: The place to take ideas is the boardroom to get approval, so if it’s important it has to go there.

The place where ideas go to die more like. On paper an idea flourishes, in someone’s mind it is dangerous, as you can’t keep track of it there so nice and dead on paper please, before it gets carried in ceremonially into it’s final destination

3: The only thing stopping the boardroom from taking the right action is the lack of the right reports being taken into the boardroom
This is the only remaining problem to be solved. Crack this, and it all comes together. Get the right words in the right order on a piece of paper, and the mysteries of the universe will unlock.

I jest of course.

We don’t know that our intervention theory is IF the correct/senior people agree to the pieces of paper explaining the change required, THEN it will happen.

It assumes that IF these important people have read, understood, agreed, been motivated to and are capable of carrying it out as you intended without any hindrance stopping them THEN it will happen. A lot of “if”s, and it assumes your piece of paper is right.

Since we don’t know that we are assuming our point of leverage is paper, we think it is the recipients of the paper who are somehow letting the side down.

This is the Policy Officers pitfall.

There are innumerable (i.e. most) projects I have seen that end with a paper report being signed off.
If what you do ends with a report, you’ve failed.

We have not learned this lesson yet.

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